I think I will just throw my hands up and quit…..my Mama said this often.

I think I will just throw my hands up and quit…..my Mama said this often.

I think I will just throw my hands up and quit…..that’s what I heard my Mama say and sometimes she said it often.

You see raising two boys and a girl who was a tomboy–all of us two years apart and then another baby girl nine years younger than my youngest of baby brothers—most days for our Mama were not for the faint of heart.

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In the summer time it was rare if my Mama missed a week in the ER with one of my brothers.  There was this one time when one of my brothers had watched a little too much of Evil Kinevel one Saturday on our three-channel televison set.  It wasn’t long after watching the show he had a grand ideal. My brother went right out into our driveway where a man with a big dump truck had unloaded a pile of gravel for my Daddy.  And my brother–which I will not name the one who did this, he built him a ramp of old boards and with his supped up spider bike tried to clear that huge mound of rocks.  And me and my other siblings were off to my grandmother’s house and my Mama and my brother to the ER.

And there was another time when and again I won’t name names–one of my brothers decided he would tape 50 firecrackers together and light them all up at the same time.  Needless to say he was the one who was lit up the most–and another trip to the ER.  And on one occasion one of my brothers decided to it would be cool to stick his fingers into the spokes of his upside down bicycle wheel while it was turning at full speed.  Not good.  My grandmother then called my Mama at work and off they went to the friendly hospital.  My brother with his hand wrapped up in a large towel and my grandmother almost in a panic.

Blood and stitches–they didn’t mix well with our Mama and because she was a frequent flyer in the ER they knew her well and prepared for her to pass out at any given time while stitching up my brothers and sister’s cuts and wounds.

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Mama and baby

It wasn’t that I didn’t ever get hurt–I did.  But never did I have to require a trip to the ER for stitches. Although one time I did cause my little sister a trip to the ER to have stitches just above her eye.  It wasn’t my fault.  The story goes like this—every night after supper we would hit the ball field with my Daddy.  The ball field, meaning our front yard.  We had three trees for bases and home plate was right in front of the window–the big window we called the picture window.  I was warming up in the batter’s box and my bat connected with my sister’s head who was a toddler at the time.  She claims I did it on purpose.  But everybody knows you don’t walk up behind someone when they are warming up to step into the batter’s box.  It wasn’t a hard hit–but enough to cause a cut–one that required stitches.  

Back to the picture window.  My Mama is not the athletic type, her gifts are in the creative.  She never joined us for our athletic events in the front yard.  It was her sewing time. I am sure our after dinner baseball games gave her some much needed stress relief in that sewing chair.  She sewed a lot while we were growing up. Her sewing chair always sat in front of the big window.  So one night she was sitting in her comfy chair stitching away on some curtains and the baseball that one of my brothers fouled off cracked through the window and landed right in her lap full of half-sewn curtains.  And the picture window was no more for a few days. 

But the thing was about that foul ball and the broken window–my Daddy told my Mama he did it.  And I argued with him.  No it was ….., one of my baby brothers.  But Daddy took the blame.  Something I will never forget.   Don’t get me wrong, we broke out several other windows during my childhood with foul balls, wild pitches, and wrong infield defensive plays but we never broke the big picture window but once. The other times we broke out the small windows—me and my brothers and we took the share of the blame.  And Daddy, he would keep on replacing windows and Mama, she kept on sewing to pay for the glass. 

And this is just a short glimpse into our childhood.  Our teenage years–I won’t go there but my Mama’s frustration at times, it was like a broken record.  Throw my hands up and quit, she would say.  And honestly looking back we gave her plenty of reasons to want to quit.  But she never did.

Mama, Happy Mother’s Day!  I’m glad you didn’t quit on us.  

 

 

 

 

Misfit Women of the Bible, Belonging at the feet of Jesus. And You are worthy to belong there too. 

Misfit Women of the Bible, Belonging at the feet of Jesus. And You are worthy to belong there too. 

I was on a mission.  You know, one of those last minute gifts a few days before Christmas.  No, it wasn’t on the original list to buy, but my sweet baby grand girl, well she needed this doll or at least Granna thought so.

So there I was smack dab in the middle of last minute shoppers elbow to elbow frantically looking in the aisles of the toy department for this doll.  And after several minutes of searching, I finally asked another shopper who was also scouting out the toy section and she said, “I saw one over in the markdown toys. It was on the top shelf in the corner.”

Yes! I thanked her and hurried over to the sea of discounted toys.  I scanned the shelf in which the lady had directed me and then I saw it—wedged in between two other boxes.  The doll! Needless to say I was going to do whatever it took to get this doll into my possession.  I placed my foot on the bottom shelf giving myself a little boost, pulled the box within my reach and there she was—in a box, crushed and her hair, it was a mess.  She had been discarded on the island of misfit toys.

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Have you ever felt like you were a misfit? Like you have been discarded, discounted, you didn’t belong? Have you ever walked into a meeting, a restaurant, a church and felt like melting into the floor because you didn’t think you measured up to the standards of every woman there?  Your education level didn’t match up. Your hair wasn’t styled perfect, like hers, or your clothes—missing the designer labels, or perhaps it was your fake jewelry outshined by her diamonds and pearls.  Have you ever had someone who you thought cared about you look at a photo of the two of you together and say, ‘we just don’t look good..you and me together.’ Or even worse, have you ever attended a church service and felt eyes scorching you with judgement or voices murmuring with noise.

“Did you just see who walked in? I can’t believe what I am seeing.  Just look at what she is wearing. And her children, I’m not sure they have had baths this morning. She’s divorced you know, and just the other day I heard….” 

And you, you walk in with your scarlet letter burning hard on your chest amongst the whispers, your children tucked under your arms and timidly find a seat on a pew closest to the door, drop your head in shame, and vow never to go back to church again.

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I believe if we were all honest with each other we could say at one time or another in our lives we have all felt like misfits. We have suffered disapproval and criticisms from the hands of other women, men, society, church members, co-workers, friends, family, and sadly—even ourselves.  Perhaps you have been the victim of gossip, unfair judgements or worse, you have treated another woman as a lesser person because of the scars of her past or outward appearance.  I can say my heart has been broken more than I care to mention as a victim. But along with being wounded from the hurtfulness of others, I have also been the critic. And for that, I am deeply ashamed.  

_DSC0744.JPGI gently remove the doll from the crumbled box, comb the tangles from her shiny black hair, and place two bright pink bows in her hair. And she was perfect, at least in mine and my granddaughter’s eyes. You see, this doll over the last few years has lost some of her popularity with children and for that reason there was no place for her with the popular dolls.  Her time as one of the most admired dolls is gone. Forgotten. Discounted. A misfit among the other dolls.

Regardless of your past, your economic and popularity status, the clothes and jewelry you wear, your level of educational degrees, your job—you are not a misfit.  You belong. And you are not forgotten.

Jesus has not forgotten you. He has not forgotten me.

_DSC0734.JPG_DSC0751.JPGAll throughout the Bible there were women who were judged as misfits, not fitting the mold in society’s eyes, but God, God had other plans for these women’s lives.  And what their stories reveal is when we fully trust in God and place our complete faith in Him, there is hope.  There is forgiveness, there is healing, there is grace, and there is mercy.  Undeserved mercy.

Hagar, Leah, Rahab, Ruth, Naomi, Esther, the Widow with the Two Mites, the Samaritan Woman at the Well, the Woman with the Issue of Blood, the Woman caught in the Act of Adultery, Mary Magdalene, and yes, even Jesus’ mother, Mary—all misfits.  Each of these women’s stories narrate what can happen when a woman puts her complete trust in God’s will for her life.  And your story is important too.

My prayer is as you read this series of blog posts along with reading God’s word, you will come to know, there are no perfect women, nor men—only one perfect One, and that is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Through Jesus’ death, there is forgiveness of sins.

We all have a past.

We all have faults.

We all have failures.

We all have a story.

We are enough.

We are worthy to belong.

And we are loved.

This is the first in a series of blog posts, Misfit Women of the Bible, Belonging at the feet of Jesus. And You are worthy to belong there too. 

 

 

 

The cross…tragic, sad, dark, cruel, undeserving and necessary.

The cross…tragic, sad, dark, cruel, undeserving and necessary.

He walked through the audience–carrying this cross representing Christ’s walk up Golgotha hill.  And I watched as the scene depicted the soldiers nailing Him to the cross.  And there were sobs behind me.

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And the actor’s body was marred with what looked like blood, bruises, and I watched with tears. Jesus–you did this for me. The cross–it was tragic, sad, dark, cruel, undeserving and necessary.  And my heart hurts and I am ashamed I ever doubted your love.

I believe if we were totally honest with ourselves we can say at one time or another we have questioned God’s love for us–not so much doubt but questioned.  God, do you love me?  Where are you, God?  God, why does this happen to me, my family? God, why?

Why is it we so easily forget sometimes the sacrifice and hurt You went through for each of us? You promised forever.  You promised You would rise again on the third day.  You promised You would go and prepare a place for us. You promised to never leave us or forsake us.  You promised You would always be near.  And You promised You would love us.  Love us forever.   And You are not a breaker of promises.

 

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The cancer is eating away at his body quickly and the clock of death is not slowing down.  He stands with a weak voice and gives thanks to his brothers and sisters in Christ for prayers and acts of kindness.  And he tells the story of seeing a white dove outside his window and he knows God is close by.   And his story of the white dove reminds me of my grandpa’s story–his vision of a beautiful white bird before He closed his eyes to rest in the arms of Jesus.

And on the cross Jesus’ blood was a falling rain of grace and with every drop we are drenched with mercy and the promises of a forever love.

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And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love with is in Christ Jesus. 

1 Timothy 1:14. (KJV)

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. 

John 14:2-3 (KJV) 

All photos and writing are copyrighted.  A Beautiful Grace. 

There’s always a story in sports…and this one maybe somewhat different: Spring Training.

There’s always a story in sports…and this one maybe somewhat different: Spring Training.

Sports have always played an important part of my life–my childhood–my children played sports growing up–my nieces–nephews.   I have spent many hours not only as a proud Mom on the bleachers but also as an ecstatic aunt.  And as a young child I watched my Daddy rocket softballs from outfield to home plate like a speeding jet–or in his daughter’s eyes–that’s the way it was. And I have logged many late nights as a sports writer and photographer.  

It’s the game.  The score.  The competition.  And the absolute dream for many.

Recently I had the opportunity to attend Spring Training with my niece in Arizona and watch team greats such as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Angels and others.

The sights and sounds and smells of the ballpark ignites memories of the past and there is this thrill of watching young kids walking into the park with gloves and their backs adorned with their favorite jerseys–heroes’ names on the back.  And never think for one moment it’s just the kids–grown men have their gloves in tow too–ready to catch the sacred foul ball and homerun.  And there are the elderly women, especially and men who are dressed in full fan attire.

There’s was this one woman–she was up in age.  I saw her in one of the tourist stores.  She had a lapel pin with a player’s name and number stuck to her jacket–shining like new money.  And we talked for a few minutes about the local pottery and other small talk.  And then I ask her–is that player someone you personally know?  In my mind I thought it might be a family member, a grandson perhaps.  And she said, “Oh no honey–that is so and so–he plays for the Giants.”

These men–these athletes–they are sometimes larger than life to us.  Heroes at times.  So much so old women wear their names on their backs and lapel pins on their jackets.  In full color.

There’s always a story.

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It’s been a while since I attended a Major League Baseball game and the thrill of seeing players such as Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, Vladimir Guerrero, and Clayton Kershaw while in Spring Training–it’s something I won’t forget.

But this time there was something different about the park–the stories I saw.  Many of these stories you will never witness on ESPN or read about them in Sports Illustrated, at least not multiple times.  The stories,  there are many.

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The story of Albert Pujol’s Family Foundation–the mission “is to live and share our commitment to faith, family, and others.  To promote awareness, provide hope and meet tangible needs for children and families who live with Down syndrome.  To improve the standard of living and quality of life for impoverished people in the Dominican Republic through education, medical relief, and tangible goods.  To provide extraordinary experiences for children with disabilities and/or life threatening illnesses.”

And one of the reasons for Albert Pujol’s support for children with Down syndrome–his daughter.

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He didn’t have to do it.  This three-time Cy Young Award winning pitcher.  But there he was, Clayton Kershaw, bigger than life signing autographs for the fans at spring training.  I have read his earlier biography–he worked hard to get to the big leagues and never let anyone discourage his dream.  But more than that–Kershaw and his wife, Ellen–his high school sweetheart, they have raised over 7.5 million dollars through Kershaw’s Challenge which benefits communities in Dallas, Los Angeles, Zambia and the Domician Republic.

The mission of Kershaw’s Challenge is this, “Kershaw’s Challenge is a faith-based, others-focused organization.  We exist to encourage people to use whatever God-given passion or talent they have to make a difference and give back to people in need.  We want to empower people to use their spheres of influence to impact communities positively and to expand God’s Kingdom.  We believe that God can transform at-risk children and neighborhoods through the benevolence and impact of others.”

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And there are others with stories within the ballpark–their jerseys are not sold in any fan club shop or any other sporting good store for that matter.  And maybe they should be.  Because the game–it just wouldn’t exist without their work, their dedication.

The groundskeepers, clean-up crew, maintenance, equipment managers, the team’s dieticans, nutritionists, coaches, strength and conditioning coaches, vendors–many who their days begin long before sunrise and end in the dark of the night–12 hours later and more.

And what about the single moms and those daddies who not only carry large loads of drinks, popcorn, and other concessions on their backs, selling to the crowds–but also the burden of making ends meet at home. Their job at the ballpark is not their first job but often times their second and third shift employment.

Today is opening day for Major League Baseball.  There will be huge crowds at ballparks all across America.  And there will be young and old alike dressed in their favorite team’s attire.

The next time I go to Spring Training or a Major League game, I believe I will design my own jerseys to wear.  And on my jerseys will be names such as Smith and Jones and Garcia and Lopez.   And when I am asked who is Smith, who is Jones or Garcia or Lopez–I will answer and say, ‘oh Mrs. Smith, she carries popcorn on her back at the stadium and sells to the crowd and Mr. Jones, he is one of the coaches who works sometimes 7 days straight–many 12-hour days, Garcia, he is the young boy who doesn’t even look old enough to work and pushes loads of trash twice his size, and Lopez, he is part of the grounds crew whose only responsibility is to make sure every blade of grass is shining and the fields are perfect.

And there are heroes everywhere.  And most feel they are never noticed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In God’s time…

In God’s time…

There’s a row of clouds measuring the treetops–barely peaking over, all in a straight row.  And I imagine heaven above, over on the other side of this eastern sky.

I reach for my Fitbit and like every single morning the stupid thing seems to be shouting at me.  The words are right there–scrolling, counting the milliseconds–fast.  GO, GO, GO.  And I roll my eyes and slap it on my wrist.

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And then I remember what Christian writer Jan Karon wrote, “What are you going through these days? I am going through being in my eighties and waiting for the One who loved us first to give me a new direction, path, journey, ministry, passion. Waiting, that’s always hard.  But right now, for the first time in my life, I am willing to wait.  It’s okay to wait. It is even GOOD to wait.  Whatever you are up to, waiting, hurting, feeling free, doubting, loving, straining, busting a gut, it is good.  Give thanks, and you will be rewarded.  I promise.”

In her eighties–she waits.

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_DSC0003Also in the waiting are two men of God in my church–their bodies engulfed with cancer. And they are using their voices–one with song and both with testimonies of the goodness of the Lord.  They celebrate every day, not in the hurriedness but in the thankfulness.

Jacob–he rang the bell this week and his family and friends celebrated–no more chemo.  Cancer-free. This family has inspired and encouraged many in their journey.  They have waited–trusting in God’s healing.  And God is good.

I listened as a dear friend told me how her biopsy was more painful than she expected and her voice was shaky. And as brave as she wants to be I know she is scared. Tired. Worried.  In two short days she receives her results and in the waiting we will pray.

And just this week I heard–two more women I know have been diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer.

On this morning I sit again in familiar surroundings. 30 days plus in this waiting room–today is my follow-up.   This elderly woman, she comes out the door smiling after her treatment.  Her husband patiently waited and he begins to gently lift her coat up to her shoulders–the coat is the color of God’s bluebirds.  She smiles and waves good-bye to all of us who remain in the waiting and she tells us to have a good day.  The flood of emotions I never expected from this place is somewhat overwhelming.

The two men in my church, they remind me of Paul and Silas–happy, singing high the praises of the One who’s coming.  The One who will break down their prison walls of cancer–He’s coming.  Their rescue–the breaking free–the healing.   He is coming.

And the morning rain is pouring mercy.

 

 

 

 

Taste and See: Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers, & Fresh Food Makers. a new read. a new study.

Taste and See: Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers, & Fresh Food Makers. a new read. a new study.

I had no idea who this woman was or anything about the books she had authored.  And as she started sharing her story and her latest book it didn’t take me long and I knew–I had to read this book–I had to meet this woman.   She told her story as a cancer survior and her travels to research for her book, Scouting the Divine, My Search for God in Wine, Wool, and Wild Honey.  

My passion for farming and learning more about God’s word–together! I was clinging to her every word.  This was 2015–Women of Joy Conference in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

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Margaret Feinberg is one of those writers that you must read her words slow and then reread again and again. Her research and deeply rooted details in her stories leave the reader with a sense of awe and longing to know more. She not only researches—she is a master storyteller traveling to experience the beauty of the Scriptures through others’ stories.

And she has done it once again with her new book, Taste and See, Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers, & Fresh Food Makers. This book is an outpouring of stories, humor, history, facts, scriptures, and delicious recipes. Taste and See will inspire readers to read God’s word and again, turn back to the table to give thanks for His abundant blessings.

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Courtesy of Margaret Feinberg, Launch Team Photos

During her research for Taste and See, Margaret traveled to Israel to fish with Israeli fisherman in the Sea of Galilee, California to a fig farm and Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University for a lesson in ancient bread baking. She continued her research plunging 410 feet into a salt mine in Utah, Croatia to learn more about olives and their many uses, and Dallas learning as a student in “Steakology 101” taught by a Texas butcher.

“I’m 6,941 miles from home on the southern rim of the Sea of Galilee, slogging through the marsh in rubber waders that I borrowed from a stranger.  Israeli fishermen lay a gillnet in waist-deep water before me.  They shout at each other in what I assume is Hebrew, but what my ears fail to hear, my eyes understand clearly.  They have determined to fill their boats with St. Peter’s fish.  I am the only woman in the bunch–a female Bible teacher from America, no less–and one of the men is stripped down to his underwear.  How did I get myself in this mess?  The month prior, I had decided to throw myself into a study of food in the Bible and my expedition would be incomplete without an exploration of fish.  I prayed a (big) prayer that I’d meet the right people at the right time, and soon one divine encounter led to another.” 

My copy of Margaret’s book, Scouting the Divine: My Search for God in Wine, Wool, and Wild Honey is one marked with notes, highlighted words and the pages are worn. And her latest book, Taste and See will be the same.

Taste and See, Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers, & Fresh Food Makers and the Bible Study releases tomorrow, January 22nd. (Click on the above link for more information about purchasing the book and Bible Study). If you are interested in becoming part of a Beautiful Grace‘s online Bible Study Facebook group for Taste And See, please comment below and I will provide you with more information. Or follow a Beautiful Grace on Facebook.  We will begin February 4th.

I sat on the edge of my seat–listening to her words of wisdom and her heart for scripture–this storyteller. And three years later I am serving on her Launch Team. Thank you God for this blessing.

Thank you, Margaret.

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30 and done…will I walk this way again? Only God knows

30 and done…will I walk this way again? Only God knows

The trees stand against the sky forming this silouette and the dark sky is melting into colors of grays, pinks, blues.  They say rain’s coming today as it has so many times this winter.  And there are new beginnings in this day.

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She smiles when I walk in the office as I have for thirty plus times. And she tells me I can go on back to my changing room. And I see this closed door straight ahead I have seen so many times–the radiation room.  The thickness of the door is ten inches or more wide and the sign flashes “In Use”.  And on the door is this gold sign–Caution. High Radiation Area.

Today’s the day–my last of thirty–the last radiation treatment.

img_4465She told me this year made 21 years of walking cancer free. And there’s this invisible thread she and I share of being breast cancer survivors.  Another friend and her card read, ‘We are sisters in Christ and now we also have a very special bond!’ And so many other women who have shared their stories. All of our walks were very different in many ways, but this thread–it’s more than the sharing of a cruel disease.

The answer on the health checklist changes not only for me, but for my children, my grandchildren, my siblings, my family. Yes, I have had cancer. Yes, someone in my family has had cancer.  There is this history now and this thread of family pulls us tighter, closer.

And writer Carolyn Larsen calls this thread, “God’s thread.”

 

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The machine starts the normal buzz and on this morning it seems to last longer and the noise–much louder.  And I hold back the tears of thirty plus times here–with treatments and tests. My radiation oncology nurses are waiting as the machine comes to a stop–clapping and they hand me some necessary paperwork and a certificate of completion with my name engraved in ink.  And it reads I have ‘completed the prescribed course of radiation therapy with the highest degree of courage, determination and good nature.’

And I am unworthy and it’s not me who deserves any of these accolades–it’s so many others–it’s the woman who waits every morning for her husband to finish radiation treatments so she can drive him to his chemo treatment–fifty miles away.  It’s the man who sits in his familiar wheelchair with his cane carefully placed in his lap and humbly allows the nurses to roll him back into the radiation room.  It’s the mamas and daddies who reach deep for another day of courage as they count down another chemo treatment for their child. And it’s the doctors and nurses who day after day see people as much more than patients–they see with their hearts and smile every single day when somedays it would be much easier to cry.

And it’s God’s thread that connects us all.

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Cancer–it will forever be a part of my story.  Will I walk this way again–only God knows.  But that is not a worry of today or tomorrow for me.  For the power of our thread is strengthened by prayers lifted in faith and love. And I have felt each prayer spoken on my behalf and there are no words to express my heart of gratitude.

And the sliding door–it opens a little wider.  Today is a beginning. Not a start-over, a new beginning.  There is a difference–a big difference. And God’s mercies are new every morning. And He is bigger, greater than any disease.  And He is good.

It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him. Lamentations 3:22-24 (KJV)